writer martin hughes

James Braund, photographer of The Slow Guide Melbourne, says of this pic: "This was taken at Werribee Zoo. I like the negative space with the cloud and giraffes neck, it reminded me of a cartoon talk bubble. Unfortunately the cloud hasn't come out so well in the book; I blame Martin, the editor. Actually I blame him for all the anguish in my life."

James Braund says: "I’d spent days scrambling around for a perfect slow shot, then spotted this lone figure walking down from the Shrine of Remembrance as I made my way back to the studio from the city. I immediately pulled the car over and fired off half a dozen shots; this was the first of the series because the moment past within a few seconds."

Oliver Strewe, photographer of The Slow Guide Sydney, says: "Salvio’s Ballet & Toe Shoes Shop in Randwick is a delightful workshop of high craft and tradition going back over 100 years. And it’s one of only a handful of places in the country that still makes handcrafted shoes."

Oliver Strewe says: "I particularly like this pic because it's a unique moment from a very pleasant Sunday morning with a rewarding chance encounter (Tim was a font of fascinating info about this place, the Suction in Yarra Bay, Botany Bay). A split second before or after, and I wouldn't have captured Tim stepping into space still with the lightest toehold on the concrete caisson. I thought it perfectly fitted the slow philosophy; a simple moment of joy."

Martin Hughes, publisher of Affirm Press, who's happily going slow.

The great thing about many blogs - especially in the design community - is that they celebrate the day-to-day and the small details that make a difference. Well, that's what Martin Hughes is doing with Affirm Press and its first books off the press - the Slow Guides (for Melbourne and Sydney, with more to come). Now, don't think living a "slow" life means you can't strive for the stars or be busy. As Martin says, being slow is not about slothing away your life on the couch but engaging with your world. Here's what else he has to say:

What came first - the idea to start a publishing company or the Slow Guide books? They were entwined really. I was editor of The Big Issue and wanted to do something in a similar spirit when I left. So, myself and the founder of the magazine in Australia, set up Affirm Press to publish books that have a positive impact and aim to "influence by delight" (rather than being earnest or right on). The Slow Guides seemed like the perfect start.
Did you feel you needed to slow down before starting these guides? Well, I was kinda slow already. I was a travel writer for years and liked the idea of being completely immersed in one place rather than skimming across many, exploring new ways to be and feel rather than just new things to see and do.
What has been the response? Fantastic in Melbourne where we’ve had stacks of media coverage and terrific support from independent bookstores. It’s been much more difficult to get publicity in Sydney so not that many people know about the book there. Melbourne doesn’t have any greater capacity for slow than Sydney; the challenge is reaching people (so thank you real living and Daily Imprint.
What has pleasantly surprised you about the whole experience? How trying to do everything opposite to the mainstream notion of "hip" can suddenly become, er, kind of hip.
What has disappointed you? Seeing how the big retailers, distributors and publishers have such a tight stranglehold on the market.
Is it possible to embrace the slow life and still be ambitious and successful? Possible?! I’d say it’s essential if your definition of successful includes being happy and content. The Australian who invented the bionic ear – an invention that has given hearing to tens of thousands of people around the world - had his eureka moment, not toiling in a laboratory, but while strolling on a beach. Slowing down is not about lying on the couch, rejecting everything that’s new, or retreating into a rose-tinted yesteryear; It's about being mindful about what we do, clearing the unnecessary clutter from our thinking, enjoying simple pleasures and connecting with our own little patch of of the world. There’s no great effort required. Taking the time to savour all the beautiful things on this blog and inviting that positive energy into your life… well, that’s a deliberately slow pursuit.
What other projects is Affirm Press working on? We’re going to publish more slow guides (to London and Dublin) and there are several other non-slow books in the works, ranging from creative non-fiction and general tomfoolery to another lifestyle guide and a book of photography. Have you embraced the slow life? Without meaning to sound corny (although I fear it’s inevitable!) I’d say that it embraced me. Tuning into nature and tapping into the soul of your city is uniquely enriching, like having a sea change without shifting postcode.
What’s the difference? Between a slow life and a fast one? Well, fast is all about instant gratification, mass production, being a slave to global trends, thinking about yourself, being self-conscious, filling your head with petty anxieties, being ground down by the rat race, living in a bubble, ignoring nature, constant distraction, rushing around, being unhealthy, eating crap and writing long lists. Slow is taking a long, deep breath and saying “sod all that”.

Images courtesy of Affirm Press, Oliver Strewe and James Braund.

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